ATLANTIC DIVISION PREVIEW
Basketball junkies, it's time to put down your NBA 2K11 games, put the DVD of the Lakers 2009-10 championship season away and start counting down the days until the real thing graces us once again. October 26th. Tip off. So many storylines, every team starts off a contender but only 4-5 are really going to challenge. Which teams recruited well in the off season? Who didn't? Which team is going to make the largest improvement on last year? Which team will recede this year? Starting5's panel of experts will help decipher the NBA off season to provide an accurate prediction of the regular season.
We begin today with the Atlantic Division.
Last Season : 50-32
Ins : C Shaquille O’Neal, C Jermaine O’Neal, G Delonte West,G Von Wafer, C Semih Edrin, G Avery Bradley, PF Luke Harangody
Outs : G Tony Allen, F Rasheed Wallace, F Brian Scalabrine
What 2 Watch For : Last season was marred by inconsistency and Boston incurred many losses after holding big leads in games. This is arguably this squads last shot at a ring before re-tooling so look for this team not taking any nights off. They will play hungry and aim to prove to the new kids on the block in Miami they are still the Eastern Conference champs. The only thing that will prevent them from being a top tier team again is health. Word around Celtics training camp says that Kevin Garnett is moving pain free and is looking sharp. That's good news for the C's, but the health of the two O'Neal's is critical while Kendrick Perkins recovers from injury. If this team stays healthy, a matchup with the Lakers is a strong possibility.
Prediction : 1st 57-25
New York Knicks
Last Season : 29-53
Ins : F Amar’e Stoudemire, G Raymond Felton, G Roger Mason, SG Andy Rautins, SF Landry Fields, G Kelenna Azubuike, C/F Ronny Turiaf, C Timofey Mozgov
Outs : F David Lee, G Tracy McGrady, F Al Harrington
What 2 Watch For : The moves Knick management make. Rumours abound of a potential Chris Paul/Amar'e/Carmelo Anthony Big 3. But to do so the Knicks need to aquire some draft picks and complimentary pieces and the city of New York is tired of 'waiting one more year'. Moves will be made this season. For Coach D'Antoni's system Felton is definitely an upgrade at PG over Chris Duhon but the problem this team faces is it's lack of defensive mentality. They may score 105 points per game but they will also most likely give up 110. The Knicks are big on center Timofey Mozgov from Russia. The team is hoping he can play the minutes that oft injured big man Eddy Curry will not. The Knicks are on the right path but still have a way to go. They're still one major piece away from contending for a playoff spot.
Prediction : 2nd 38-46
Last Season : 27-55
Ins : C Tony Battie, C Spencer Hawes, SG Evan Turner,
Outs : G Allen Iverson
What 2 Watch For : Elton Brand. He needs to have a good season after struggling since his move from the Clippers. It's a necessity he regains the form that made him a nightly double-double machine. Rookie Evan Turner has probably the most rounded game of all rookies and will be asked to help Andre Iguadala with the scoring load. Doug Collins has a great young nucleus to mold and will preach defense. Louis Williams once again has the bulk of minutes at PG with Allen Iverson's departure. Good solid young team, will be dangerous in a couple of seasons time.
Prediction : 3rd 36-46
Last Season : 40-42
Ins : G Leandro Barbosa, C David Andersen, F Linas Kleiza, PF Ed Davis, C Solomon Alabi
Outs : F Chris Bosh, F Hedo Turkoglu
What 2 Watch For : The international flavor of this team stepping up. The keys to the franchise will be handed over to DeMar DeRozan but Andrea Bargnani will be required to continue his development and become the clutch player that the Raps need in place of Chris Bosh. Whether or not he is actually able to fulfil those requirements remains to be seen. Barbosa has been brought in to add some punch to the offense but as usual the problem with Barbosa is he's a scoring guard in a point guards body. He may be paired with Calderon to start or may come off the bench for some spark. Australian David Andersen will see some time in Jay Triano's system and should provide some quality minutes.
Prediction : 4th 33-49
New Jersey Nets
Last Season : 12-70
Ins : G Jordan Farmar, F Travis Outlaw, PF Derrick Favors, PF Damion James, G Anthony Morrow, F/C Troy Murphy
Outs : F/C Yi Jianlian, C Tony Battie, G Courtney Lee, G Chris Douglas-Roberts
What 2 Watch For : Improvement. This team can't sink lower than what they did last year, the only way is up. This will not be a 12 win squad. There is still some uncertainty surrounding Devin Harris amidst all the trade rumours with Carmelo Anthony. If Harris knows he is not going to be traded watch for him having a markedly improved season on last. Brook Lopez who was considered the one 'untouchable' for New Jersey will provide rebounding and defense while rookie Derrick Favors will be brought along slowly. Farmar and Outlaw add some depth to a squad which is still ultimately young and learning. This team will be good in a couple of seasons time, for the moment, improvement on last season is the achievable goal.
Prediction : 5th 30- 52